Check out what's happening at CEDAR:
Blood test developed by CEDAR researchers holds promise for early treatment
CEDAR researchers have devised an accurate and novel way to test blood to see if a pre-cancerous condition is escalating to outright cancer—potentially enabling treatment early in tumor development when cancer is more likely to be curable. The team, led by Thuy Ngo, a member of CEDAR and associate professor of molecular and medical genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine, developed a test that looks for cell-free messenger RNA biomarkers to distinguish multiple myeloma blood samples from non-cancer samples with 90% accuracy, and multiple myeloma from its pre-malignant condition with 100% accuracy. They were able to distinguish liver cancer samples from non-cancer with 93 to 100% accuracy, and liver cancer from cirrhosis with 100% accuracy. The research, published in NPJ Precision Oncology, lays the foundation for developing inexpensive assays that measure levels of cell-free RNA in blood for a small panel of genes that can differentiate cancer from pre-malignant conditions; Ngo and OHSU have filed a patent on their findings. More information on this research is available from OHSU News.
The importance of accelerating early detection research
Cancer early detection research can transform patient survival, but there are still significant obstacles preventing the translation of new research findings into the clinical setting, assert leaders of the field, including CEDAR's Sadik Esener and the Knight Cancer Institute's Lisa Coussens, in a new publication in the journal Science. Around half of all cancers are diagnosed at an advanced stage, despite the fact that treatments stand the best chance at improving survival when implemented early. “Late-stage detection of cancer is a global problem that is exacerbated in resource poor settings, demonstrating that equity is a considerable challenge,” the authors observe. “Patients diagnosed with later-stage cancer can miss the window for curative intervention, and expensive later-stage systemic treatments are often associated with severe side effects and worse outcomes.” At CEDAR, researchers are investigating cancer's early changes, and applying this knowledge to work on new, inexpensive screening tests, determining which cancers need vigorous early intervention, and directing precision therapies to reduce drug toxicity. You can read more about the article's findings on the Knight Cancer Institute's Cancer Translated blog.
Ece Eksi discusses new clues to prostate cancer
CEDAR Postdoctoral Scholar Sebnem (Ece) Eksi recently spoke with the Knight Cancer Institute's Cancer Translated blog, discussing findings that could help identify more dangerous prostate cancers earlier, giving researchers new tools to stop them. Only a fraction of prostate cancers become life-threatening, but predicting which ones is challenging. Eksi and her team found that two signaling proteins used by nerve cells can become active in and around prostate tumors, and may play a role in driving the cancers to be deadly. She discussed the discovery, published in Nature Communications, with Cancer Translated, including how the findings could help molecular biologists working on other cancer types.
Kemal Sonmez recognized as distinguished alumnus
CEDAR Member Kemal Sonmez was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus for 2021 by the University of Maryland College Park, "for their leadership and meritorious contributions to the field of engineering, their humanitarian efforts, and the application of their engineering education to other disciplines." Sonmez received his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland College Park.
CEDAR graduate student Kylene Lowrey wins award
CEDAR graduate student Kylene Lowrey took home first place in the poster session at the All Oregon Bioengineering Symposium. She presented "3D Bioprinting Ultrasound-Responsive Materials for Cellular Manipulation in 3D Tissue Constructs," which also included CEDAR authors Katherine Huynh, Luiz Bertassoni and Carolynn Schutt. At CEDAR, Lowrey works on creating cell cultures in hydrogels and using ultrasound to facilitate localized release of microbubbles in these hydrogels. She worked for several years in materials science, specifically creating unique inorganic nanoarchitectures.
CEDAR team's work published in Communications Biology
CEDAR researchers Jose Luis Montoya Mira and Ajay Sapre, alongside teammates Kyle Gustafson, Gene Tu, Jared Fischer, Roger Chiu and Sadik Esener published "Label-free enrichment of rare unconventional circulating neoplastic cells using a microfluidic dielectrophoretic sorting device" in Communications Biology on September 24. The team reported on the development of a label-free dielectrophoretic microfluidic platform facilitating enrichment of CHCs in a high-throughput and rapid fashion by depleting healthy peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). This represents a promising approach to non-invasively analyzing tumor cells from patients.
Defense Department Idea Award for CEDAR's Thuy Ngo
Thuy Ngo, Ph.D., has received a Peer Reviewed Cancer Research Program Idea Award from the Department of Defense for a project to identify blood biomarkers for early diagnosis and treatment monitoring of liver cirrhosis and cancer. Ngo is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine and a member of CEDAR, the Knight Cancer Institute's Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research Center. Liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma, is the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Current clinical blood tests have low sensitivity to detect liver cancer at early stages and are not effective for the reliable diagnosis of cirrhosis, which puts people at high risk of liver cancer. Patients with liver cancer are often diagnosed with inoperable disease. The Department of Defense award — $769,996 total — is supporting Ngo's proposal to identify cell-free RNA biomarkers (including messenger RNA, circular RNA, transposable elements and microbial transcripts) that can detect cirrhosis and monitor its progression to liver cancer.
Thuy Ngo awarded Komen grant
The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation announced 30 new grants to leading researchers across the U.S. and Canada — including CEDAR member and Assistant Professor of Molecular and Medical Genetics Thuy Ngo, Ph.D. Ngo was awarded a Career Catalyst Research Grant to study the use of cell-free RNA found in blood as a way to monitor if a treatment is successful for patients with metastatic breast cancer. This method provides the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the behavior and characteristics of the metastatic tumor and to monitor changes in metastatic lesions and responses to treatment. A full list of this year's research grants can be found at Komen.org.
CEDAR/SMMART collaboration receives funding from the Kuni Foundation
The Kuni Foundation has awarded almost $1.5 million to a collaborative project between CEDAR and SMMART, a first-of-its-kind platform designed to rapidly identify combinations of drugs that can stop tumors before they adapt and become drug-resistant. Currently, patients must have two biopsies at a major cancer center to enroll in the program. This is a barrier for people who lack the means to access a major cancer center, including rural, BIPOC, and underserved communities. The project, "Blood Biopsies as a Cost-Effective Approach to Democratize Personalized Therapy for OA & WA Patients" is developing approaches that will decrease the need for surgical biopsies by analyzing blood samples for material that escapes from tumors and goes into the blood stream. This blood can be drawn at any clinic and shipped to OHSU. The features CEDAR's Thuy Ngo as a Co-Investigator; Gordon Mills, director of precision oncology at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, is the Principal Investigator.
Aaron Grossberg receives Science of the Patient Award from AACR
OHSU physician-scientist Aaron Grossberg, M.D., Ph.D. was among the first recipients of the new Science of the Patient Award from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. Grossberg is a co-investigator alongside principle investigator Daniel L. Marks, M.D., Ph.D. on research investigating the wasting syndrome cachexia in pancreatic cancer. In advanced cancer and other diseases, cachexia can erode quality of life and hasten death. Marks and Grossberg are focusing on the role of the autonomic and neuroendocrine stress responses in pancreatic cancer cachexia. Marks is a Professor of Pediatrics and Senior Associate Dean for Research in the OHSU School of Medicine. Grossberg is an Assistant Professor of Radiation Medicine with a joint appointment with CEDAR and the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care. The Science of the Patient Award was established to stimulate groundbreaking research exploring the influence of biology of the patient on cancer genesis, development, treatment, and survivorship.
Carolyn Schutt Ibsen speaks with the Cancer Translated blog
Carolyn Schutt Ibsen, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine and a member of CEDAR. In a recent interview with the Knight Cancer Institute's Cancer Translated blog, she discusses her research, which investigates the use of "energy-responsive" biomaterials that can be controlled remotely using ultrasound to model cancer progression, as well as to guide the repair of living tissue. In the wide-ranging conversation with CEDAR Postdoctoral Scholar Kathryn Baker, Ph.D., Schutt Ibsen discusses her work's potential the challenges of modeling cancer progression, and how CEDAR's multi-disciplinary environment is critical for her research.
CEDAR staff receive Spirit of the Knight Awards
Twice a year, following an open nominations process, the Knight Cancer Institute's Spirit of the Knight Awards recognize individuals whose work embodies the institute's guiding principles: "We act boldly; we support each other; we work as a connected team." The latest round of awards were announced at the Knight Cancer Institute Town Hall on Wednesday, December 9, with CEDAR staff honored for all three categories. Andre Walcott, CEDAR's Scientific Program Management Scholar, received the Spirit of the Knight Award for "We Act Boldly," in recognition of his development of an internship program, and his efforts in addressing health and science inequities both in CEDAR and in OHSU more broadly. CEDAR's Program Director of Research Operations, Paul Howard, received the award for "We Support Each Other," for his tireless work in ensuring a smooth shutdown and subsequent reopening of CEDAR's research operations, maintaining a safe and productive lab throughout the challenges of COVID-19. And the Clinical Research Coordinators from CEDAR behind the Pathfinder study, consisting of Ryan Sinit, Bo Banks, Mason McLellan, Diana Herrera-Perez, Supriya Pandyas, and Madeleine Matheis, received the award for "We Are A Connected Team" in recognition of their efforts in smoothly coordinating a complicated study during a complex and challenging. Congratulations to these CEDARites for their efforts.
Bruce Branchaud named National Academy of Inventors Fellow
CEDAR Distinguished Scientist and University of Oregon professor emeritus Bruce Branchaud, Ph.D., was named a 20202 National Academy of Inventors Fellow, the highest professional distinction for academic inventors. The 2020 Fellow class represents 115 research universities and governmental and non-profit research institutes worldwide. The NAI Fellows Selection Committee selects candidate that have "demonstrated a highly prolific spirit of innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions that have made a tangible impact on the quality of life, economic development, and welfare of society." Branchaud joined CEDAR in 2017. He has research experience spanning synthetic organic chemistry, mechanistic/physical organic chemistry, chemical biology, biochemistry, enzymology, chemistry-enabled biotechnology, and biochemistry-enabled biotechnology. He has been a faculty member with the University of Oregon for 37 years and has held several leadership positions in the biotech industry, including serving as Director of Global Chemistry at Invitrogen, where he first worked with CEDAR Director Sadik Esener.
Joshua Saldivar named among the most 100 inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists in America
CEDAR's Joshua Saldivar, Ph.D. was recently named one of the 100 most inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists in America by Cell Press's Cell Mentor. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Cell Mentor showcased 100 of the United States' most impressive Hispanic/Latinx scientists. The list—selected based on scholarly achievements, mentoring excellence, and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion—highlights scientists across academia, government, and industry. Dr. Saldivar is an Assistant Professor of the Division of Oncological Sciences and a CEDAR scientist. His work focuses on how cells coordinate nuclear processes, such as DNA replication and transcription, through various signals, epigenetic marks, and chromatin regulators that intersect within phase-separated condensates. He uses cutting-edge microscopy approaches and powerful sequencing technologies to uncover the elegant and dynamic biology of chromatin. His long-term goals are to understand how these nuclear processes become destabilized in premalignant cells and drive epigenetic reprogramming and malignant transformation, as this will help us determine which early cancers are likely to become lethal. He joined CEDAR in Fall 2018.
CEDARites awarded in OHSU's Invent-A-Thon
OHSU joined forces with MIT Hacking Medicine and academic and industry partners to throw the inaugural OHSU Invent-a-thon, a virtual healthcare hackathon, from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25. The virtual event brought together problem solvers and thought leaders from across disciplines and geographic boundaries, offering teams the opportunity to pitch original solutions to tackle pressing health care challenges. Two teams led by CEDAR staff took home prizes from the Invent-a-thon. CEDAR Graduate Student Zeynep Sayar's team won 1st place in the Early Disease track and won the in-kind prize for "Direct Digital Pathology," which proposes outsourcing the digitization of pathology slides to increase access to and frequency of digitilazation to improve health outcomes. CEDAR Associate Specialist Samuel Tassi Yunga's team won $2000 for their "CommuNutri" idea. This idea proposes diagnosis-focused meal plans to patients with food meal delivery options, directions to pick up fresh ingredients from local farms, and emphasizes culture-appropriate ingredients. It includes a social media ecosystem that connects patients with online nutritionist support. The platfrom can also be scaled up later to include meal plans for the long-term paraclinical management of other diseases.
Hisham Mohammed speaks with the Knight Cancer Institute's Cancer Translated blog
The Knight Cancer Institute's Cancer Translated blog recently spoke with CEDAR's Hisham Mohammed, Ph.D. Mohammed, an assistant professor of molecular and medical genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine and scientist in CEDAR, helped create a way to peer into individual cells and take multiple measures of gene activity and gene regulation at the same time. He's leading the first efforts to apply that single-cell multi-omic research method to cancer. Cancer Translated spoke with him about the method's prospects for resolving questions into how fundamental biological processes go wrong and begin to regulate and drive cancer—which is key to detecting and treating early cancer.
Aaron Grossberg receives NCI career development award
Aaron Grossberg, M.D., Ph.D., has received a Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award from the National Cancer Institute for his research on pancreatic cancer. Grossberg is an assistant professor of radiation medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. He has a joint appointment with CEDAR and the Brenden-Colson Center for Pancreatic Care. Grossberg's lab studies the interaction between cancer and metabolism in an effort to identify ways to diagnose cancers sooner and improve the quality of life of cancer patients. NCI's K08 awards provide support and protected time to non-tenured clinician-scientists at the early career stage for an intensive, mentored research career development experience in basic, translational, or patient-oriented cancer-focused-research. The award will support further research on the wasting syndrome cachexia in pancreatic cancer. The mechanisms underlying cachexia are poorly understood, and there remain no effective treatments. Grossberg's team has found that pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma alters the regulation of metabolic genes in the liver, the organ that controls whole-body physiology in response to nutrient availability. The researchers are working to understand this deregulation of liver metabolism, its role in cancer cachexia, and the circulating signals that mediate these changes.
Michelle (Shelley) Barton joins CEDAR as co-director of cancer biology
Michelle (Shelley) Barton, a scientist and academic leader at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, is joining the Knight Cancer Institute as CEDAR’s new co-director of cancer biology. She comes to CEDAR by way of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center where she is a Professor in the Department of Epigenetics and Molecular Carcinogenesis, as well as the Dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Barton has deep biological expertise in cancer epigenetics and signaling, and a strong track record and interest in bringing new technologies to bear on biological questions. She also has a passion for teaching and mentoring. In her role at MD Anderson, she increased recruiting efforts aimed at creating a student body that is more reflective of Texas and the United States; the school is currently 12th in the nation for under-represented Ph.D. students. She also created a structure that would support diverse students once they arrived. As a co-director, she will help to set the scientific direction of the center.
Beverly Emerson honored as fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Molecular biologist Beverly Emerson, Ph.D., joined an accomplished roster of scientists, artists, scholars and all-around leaders who were elected fellows of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. The 2020 class include singer-songwriter-activist Joan Baez, former Attorney General Eric Holder, novelist Ann Patchett, and indie filmaker Richard Linklater. Emerson is a distinguished scientist with CEDAR, and a professor emeritus at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
Using radiation to boost circulating DNA for ‘liquid biopsies’ of cancer
Testing for tumor DNA in blood is easier and safer than taking a biopsy of tumor tissue. The problem is, early-stage tumors may not shed enough DNA to find in a blood draw. Researchers at OHSU are working on a way to use radiation to increase the amount of tumor DNA in blood. They’ve shown that patients with suspected lung tumors show a sharp increase in circulating tumor DNA after treatment with stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT.
CEDAR postdoc wins poster prize at nuclear receptors meeting
Aysegul Ors, Ph.D., won an award at the 2nd Nuclear Receptors Conference for her poster presentation on the use of single-cell, multi-omic sequencing technologies to study transcriptomic and epigenetic heterogeneity in hormone-driven breast cancers. Ors is a CEDAR postdoctoral scholar. She's working with Alex Chitsazan, M.S., a CEDAR research associate, and Hisham Mohammed, Ph.D., a CEDAR scientist and assistant professor of molecular and medical genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine.
Investigational blood test could detect many types of cancer with one blood draw
The Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University is one of five sites across the country selected by GRAIL, Inc., a health care company dedicated to detecting cancer early, to join a study designed to improve early detection of cancer. The PATHFINDER study will evaluate the implementation of an investigational early detection test that has been designed to test many types of cancer through a single blood draw, into clinical practice for the first time.
International alliance sets bold research ambition to detect the (almost) undetectable
The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, together with collaborators across the U.S. and the U.K., announced the formation of the International Alliance for Cancer Early Detection, or ACED. This new alliance is formed by the coordinated efforts of Cancer Research UK, Canary Center at Stanford University, the University of Cambridge, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, University College London (UCL) and the University of Manchester.
Building a world-class team of women scientists
Women in the Knight Cancer Institute are making significant advancements in their fields. Onward, the magazine of the OHSU Foundation, profiled nine of them. Tackling a problem as big as cancer is often a matter of moving one step forward, two steps back. It requires patience and persistence and an unwavering belief that the answer is out there — at least, that’s the way Beverly Emerson, Ph.D., sees it.
Explore careers in cancer research at Knight School
Few people know the wide variety of careers available to those who may be interested in working in the field of cancer. Knight Cancer Institute scientists share their experiences, discuss their work, and talk about the ways they mentor and develop young people so they can be a part of the effort to end cancer as we know it. Knight School is a series of community-facing science talks designed to educate, entertain, and inspire with stories told by Knight Cancer researchers, clinicians and patients.
Cancer biostatistician Ruth Etzioni joins CEDAR
Cancer population health researcher Ruth Etzioni, Ph.D., joins the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute as a distinguished scientist at the center for Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research. She will be responsible for leading a collaborative research project on epidemiology that advances cancer early detection at CEDAR. Etzioni is a leader in the field of cancer epidemiology, with a distinguished record of scientific and technical accomplishments.
Cancer 101: An introduction to early detection research
Learn about the history of cancer treatment, what's possible today and what's next in treatment and therapy as we work to end cancer as we know it. Watch the Knight School session.
They chose OHSU: Hisham Mohammed, Ph.D.
Hisham Mohammed, Ph.D., is an associate scientist at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research (CEDAR) center, one of the largest initiatives in the world focused on research to enable the detection of cancers at an earlier, more treatable stage. At the University of Cambridge, UK, while working as a Ph.D. student, Mohammed invented a method to analyze and understand protein complexes more efficiently — a method now being used in labs across the world. Importantly, this method allowed him to discover a pivotal role for the hormone progesterone in regulating breast cancer.
Knight Cancer Institute hopes collaboration will lead to cures
Leaders at the Knight Cancer Institute know that scientific discoveries are not guaranteed, even with $1 billion to spend looking for answers. They also know that some of the world’s most dramatic discoveries happened by accident, when scientists were looking for something completely different than what they ended up finding. Collaborative, multi-disciplinary work — a kind of intellectual cross-pollination that can lead to surprising results — is the goal at OHSU.
CEDAR appoints a chief medical officer
Tomasz Beer, M.D., joined CEDAR as chief medical officer. In this new role, he brings a clinician’s perspective to early detection research and guide scientists’ understanding of patient needs. Beer will continue to serve as Deputy Director of the Knight Cancer Institute. He will also advise on the selection of diseases CEDAR targets and ensure research strategy is designed to yield improvements in human health, while fostering collaborations between CEDAR scientists and the Knight Cancer Institute’s clinical research community.
CEDAR welcomes Paul Spellman as co-director
Paul Spellman, Ph.D., joined the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research center as a co-director. In this new role at CEDAR, Spellman will mentor young scientists, provide strategic guidance for the center, review scientific proposals, and help align the center’s scientific direction. Spellman is a professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine and co-leader of the Quantitative Oncology Program in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
The promise of early detection: Watch Sadik Esener's Marquam Hill Lecture
Sadik Esener, Ph.D., is building a multidisciplinary team to reveal the evolutionary biology of cancer to develop low-cost screening, determine which cancers to aggressively treat and leverage precision therapies to minimize toxicity. The Wendt Family Chair professor of biomedical engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine and director of the Knight Cancer Institute Cancer Early Detection Advanced Research center (CEDAR), Dr. Esener and his team's goal is to find and eliminate lethal cancers at the earliest stage with little harm to the patient.